In honor of our first neighborhood visit of the summer season, I thought I’d answer some questions that I am frequently asked about Books on Bikes. If you’ve been wondering about this awesome organization, how you can get involved, and what we do in Charlottesville, then read on!
What is Books on Bikes?
Books on Bikes is a literacy outreach organization serving children and young adults in Charlottesville, founded in 2011 by Charlottesville City School librarians Rebecca Flowers and Mary Craig. From the Books on Bikes website: “Books on Bikes is a community outreach and literacy program, created by Charlottesville City School librarians and teachers, to bring books to children in Charlottesville, VA. We hope to not only bring books and a love of reading to the children of Charlottesville, but also develop a relationship between Charlottesville residents and the local school community.” Over the summer when school libraries are closed, many of our students don’t have access to public libraries, and may not have quality literature in their homes to read. We bike into neighborhoods throughout Charlottesville to give books to readers for them to keep, growing their home libraries. We also bring popsicles, storytime, and warm, loving adults to build connections throughout the Charlottesville community.
Where do you ride? Will you visit my neighborhood?
Over the years as the program has developed, we have created a regular schedule for our visits. These neighborhoods have strong connections to our schools, a large population of children, and have warmly welcomed us and become family. Over the course of a two week period, visit the following neighborhoods: Friendship Court, 6th St. SE, South 1st St., Greenstone on 5th, Hearthwood, and Westhaven. The schedule is set up so that we visit each neighborhood on the same day every other week, so readers know when to expect us. We park our bikes in a central spot so that we can greet and share stories with friends in the sunshine. Books on Bikes also attends community events like Sunday Sundowns at Washington Park whenever possible, and we’d love to see you there! For more details about our visits, see our 2017 summer schedule.
When do you ride?
We ride every Monday and Thursday evening every week that Charlottesville City Schools are not in session. We’re headed out on our first neighborhood visit tonight! We meet at Clark Elementary school in the evening to load up our bikes with books, prep our popsicles, and head out as a group. We ride in the evenings so that any friends that attend summer school or day camp will be home by the time we arrive. As a bonus, it’s cooler! We try to arrive in neighborhoods between 5-5:30 PM and normally return to Clark to unload before 7 PM. Our schedule is set up so that we visit each neighborhood once every other week, on the same day. For example, we will visit Greenstone on 5th once every other Thursday throughout June, July, and August until schools open again. For more information about the specific dates that we visit each neighborhood and other events, see our 2017 summer schedule.
Who is on the team?
Our core team consists of four librarians and two teachers from the Charlottesville area. Here we are:
From right to left: Katie Plunkett (Greenbrier Elementary), Sarah FitzHenry (thats me!), Rebecca Flowers (Johnson Elementary), Kellie Keyser (Greenbrier Elementary), Mary Craig (Clark Elementary), and Stacy Diaz (Walker Upper Elementary). And the adorable canine star of this photo is Chuleta, one of three therapy dogs and arguably the most popular members of the Books on Bikes team.
Um…Did you say dogs?
Yes! Our team wouldn’t be the same without our mascots! Thanks to the wonderful Stacy Diaz, three fabulous therapy dogs rotate in to each of our summer visits. Stacy, when she’s not a Spanish teacher at CCS, is an incredibly talented dog trainer that works to bring positive canine interactions into the lives of children in Charlottesville. Her dogs visit schools to help children in need and teach about the therapy dog program. Let me introduce you to the girls:
These dogs are unbelievably kind, patient, and well behaved. We have watched students with severe fear of dogs go from hiding behind legs to scratching behind ears in no time with these calming ladies on the job! Learn more about Stacy and her fuzzy team here.
Can my child ride with you?
We love having “Celebrity Riders” come along for our neighborhood visits! However, our rides can be long and challenging, made even harder by the Charlottesville hills and the summer heat. We suggest that younger riders meet us at Clark to help us load our bikes, and then drive to meet us at our neighborhood stop. We always have at least one member driving (our therapy dogs can’t bike… yet!), so this is totally acceptable. I drive myself if it’s over 90 degrees!
If your child is interested in joining us for a neighborhood visit, they need to have an adult with them (including on the bike ride). If they would like to bike, they and their adult will also need a helmet, their own bike, and lots of water for the trip. Some stops are easier than others and would be a better fit for Celebrity Riders. Please contact a member of the Books on Bikes team if you are planning on joining us for a ride so we know to prepare for you. This will also allow us to keep you in the loop in case there is a time change or cancellation due to weather.
If you’d like to bike along with us, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can give you more details and we can get the planning out of the way and get to the fun part – giving out books and popsicles!
What do you do in case of bad weather?
It is our goal to bike together as often as possible, but sometimes the weather has other plans. If it looks like rain or a storm is looming, we might choose to drive that evening instead of biking (our awesome bike shelves are not weatherproof). If severe storms are in the forecast or weather means that our friends are unlikely to be outdoors to greet us, we may cancel a visit. You can check our Facebook page for updates or contact me directly with questions at email@example.com.
Can I donate?
Absolutely! Monetary donations can be made by cash or check and given to any Books on Bikes member, or mailed directly to Rebecca Flowers at Johnson Elementary School. Checks should be made out to Johnson Elementary School with Books on Bikes in the subject line. Over the summer you can also mail donations to Rebecca Flowers at her home address to ensure the funds make it to us faster. Contact me via email if you’d like to make a summer donation.
We also accept gently used books ranging from board books to young adult novels. We are especially in need of graphic novels, picture books, and middle grade books, as those are our most popular titles! If you have books in your home that your family is no longer reading, consider donating them to readers in the Charlottesville area that will give them a very loving home. I accept book donations in the St. Anne’s-Belfield School library, or donations can be dropped off directly at Clark Elementary School, where all of our supplies are stored.
Books on Bikes is only possible thanks to donations from amazing Charlottesville businesses and community members! The amazing crew at Blue Wheel Bicycles keep our bikes in tip-top shape, our friends at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library donate books for us to give away, and countless local businesses do their part to help Books in Bikes spread the love of reading every summer.
Can I buy a tshirt?
Yes! Show your support for Books on Bikes with one of our colorful t-shirts, with the infamous Books on Bikes logo on the front (made by team member Rebecca Flowers!). T-shirts are not yet available online, but can be purchased through any of the Books on Bikes members. Shirts are available in a variety of colors and sizes (adult and childrens). They cost $20 each and can be paid for by cash or check. Send me an email if you are interested and we’ll have you styling in no time!
Are you the only Books on Bikes program?
Nope! We are proud to have inspired and worked with many other Books on Bikes chapters around the United States, including Newport News, Virginia; Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Milan, Michigan. Each chapter receives a custom logo thanks to artist and team member Rebecca Flowers, and we work with them to provide any advice and help to launch their programs. It is so much fun watching chapters pop up and following the amazing things that they’re doing all over the US. If you’re interested in starting your own Books on Bikes chapter, contact us! We’d love to help.